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Cambridge Rugby Shield


Feb 17

Hartpury Away

This Saturday we head to Hartpury to take on the high flying college team

Hartpury is a small village on the edge or the Forest of Dean, about four miles North of Gloucester. It takes it name for the hard pear trees grown for making perry. The parish still uses a pear tree as its badge. The village proper has a population has a population of around 700 - about the same as at the college.

If you look for routes to Hartpury you will find their are two routes from the next village of Maisemore the A417 and the so called "Over Old Road". The name apparently dates to the Second World War when the direction signs were removed to confuse the Germans in case of invasion. They removed the Maisemore sign, but left the note that it is the old road as opposed to the newer A417. Maisemore bridge where the road crosses the Severn would be a good place to watch the Severn bore - except that it happened last week.

So why two roads?

Prior to the 18th Century parishes were responsible for maintenance of roads - which were little more than dirt tracks. Should you want to travel from London to Gloucester there was a weekly cart from the Saracen's Head on Carter Lane near St Paul's which took as many days as it took. It might be quicker to sail. Parliament passed legislation permitting trusts to build new roads and charge tolls. Engineers like Telford and Macadam introduce better surfaces. This led to the introduction of sprung stage coaches - changing horses at inns every dozen or so miles. The point of departure moved to the Gloucester coffee house on Piccadilly and multiple coaches left each day. Those with money could take the fast mail coach that would be in Gloucester in the day. Others slower stages, or carts. Fares were high especially if you wanted to sit inside. The turnpike trusts were making fortunes from tolls.

The A417 was built in 1822 by the Gloucester and Hereford Turnpike Trust. Of course by then the steam engine was changing industry. As we know in 1826 it was first used to haul a railway at Darlington. Faster and cheaper, the railways took all the traffic. Some turnpikes survived for a while as feeder roads but by 1870 all were bankrupt. However, it was the rail network that enabled sports clubs to arrange fixtures across the country and supporters to get to away games.

While Macadam's roads were smooth, the extra speed of the motor car over the horse drawn coach led clouds of dust. Hence the surface was sealed first with coal tar and more recently with bitumen - the by product of the petrol that powers the cars.

Hartpury College have gone through the season unbeaten so far, they have scored a bonus point in every game except the one at Plymouth. Plymouth came within 7 points and picked up a bonus point as did Coventry, while Fylde and Cambridge scored four tries. But those four bonus points were on the road - at home their record is perfect.

They have already scored 154 tries and more than 1000 points. Cambridge have not scored more than 143 tries - that was in the 09/10 season when we came third to Barking and London Scottish. The record for this league is 200 by Esher - the season they were relegated at the creation of the Championship and brought a Championship quality team.

Feb 17

Blackheath Preview

This Saturday Cambridge welcome Blackheath to Volac Park.

The Blackheath Club was founded by some of the old boys of Blackheath Proprietary School. The school was founded in 1830, money to build the School was raised by the sale of shares - each shareholder was also entitled to send a boy to the school. The school prospered for nearly eighty years. Among its old boys is Surgeon General William Manley, the only man to be awarded the Victoria Cross and the Iron Cross. The latter for services with the British Ambulance Brigade in the Franco-Prussian War. During which he was also awarded the Cross of the Société Française de Secours aux Blessés Militaires - the forerunner of the French Red Cross.

The school was keen on sports and adopted the running game popular at Rugby. Sometime before 1858, a group of Old Blackheathens started a club to enable them to continue playing after leaving school. There not being enough old boys to support the team, and there being a number of old Rugbians living locally, they encouraged them to join what became famously the oldest open Football Club. There is some dispute about this as Liverpool FC - now Liverpool St Helens - and Sheffield FC were both founded in 1857. Of the three Blackheath were the only one to join the Football Association at its first meeting. Sheffield send observers but only joined a month later. It was Sheffield's opposition of hacking and running with the ball that led Blackheath to withdraw. Seven year's later Blackheath helped organise a meeting at the Pall Mall Restaurant which led to formation of the RFU and the selection of an England side to travel to Edinburgh to play the first international match. Again there is confusion. Many sites say the meeting was in Regent St - but the plaque is on Cockspur St a few hundred metres away. This might explain why the representative of Wasps is said to have gone to the wrong restaurant.

When the leagues arrived, Blackheath were placed in the second tier. They stayed there until the leagues were reduced to 10 teams each. They were promoted again in 1995 but two successive demotions in 1999 and 2000 dropped them to level 4. Blackheath regained the third tier in 2004 and have been a fixture in this league since.

Between 2007 and 2013 Cambridge and Blackheath met seven times at Granchester Road winning on six occasions, only losing the last encounter in the disastrous 2012/13 season. When we travelled to London - our first encounter at their new ground at Wes Hall - we lost by 10 points. They currently sit fifth, but lost last week to Ampthill and at Blaydon and only narrowly won at Hull Ionians.The Blood and Sand will hope to extend their poor run.Do come down and add to the Volac Park roar.

Car Wash

The U13s have arranged a summer tour to Italy. They are heading to Treviso, near Venice, to play in an international tournament. They are flying out on the 5th May and playing on the 6th and 7th flying home on the night of the 7th. However, they need to raise funds to pay for the trip. Therefore, if the weather is fine, they will be organising a car wash before and during the Blackheath match. The boys will be ready to start at 11:30 and will be accepting donations. Please give generously, we are suggesting at least £5 per car. If the weather is bad, they will try again on one of the remaining home games.

They are also looking for someone to sponsor the tour kit. If anyone would like their company name on the tour shirts, hoodies and shorts - or to make a donation - please contact the team here

Feb 17

Macclesfield Preview

This Saturday Cambridge head to Macclesfield. Although storms are predicted for Thursday night the forecast is for fine weather on Saturday.

Before the Loughborough match I discussed the Luddite's attacks on their weaving industy. Macclesfield being a silk weaving town also had its fair share. Being illegal Luddites held their meetings in secret. They are said to have met at Lud's Church a natural chasm in the White Peaks just off the A53 between Buxton and Leek.But there are so many legends about this mystical place that nobody can be sure. However, if you are making a weekend it is a fine place to visit on he way there or back again.

The main Luddite disturbance in Macclesfield is remembered as the "Great Potato Riot" of 1812. The wars with France had been dragging on for fourteen years and the Royal Navy was blockading the Continent. This meant less trade and therefore less demand for luxury goods. So wages were low. Potatoes were taking the place of grain as the working man's staple starch but food prices were going up causing starvation. On the 13th April 1812 a riotous mod gathered outside the town an once their numbers were sufficient - contemporary estimates were around 5000 - they swarmed into the Market Place and started stealing the potatoes and throwing them around the market.

The Magistrate managed to arrest the ringleader and hold him in the town gaol - only for the mob to break down the door and free him. Eventually with the aid of the Cumberland Militia and Macclesfield Yeomanry order was restored, but only after many ships were sacked and heads bashed in. Three of the ringleaders were arrested and taken for trial at the County Assizes. I cannot find what sentence was passed on the Macclesfield rioters - but two other men were hanged at Chester that year for Luddite rioting, out of only three executions recorded in the County that year.

The town will be recreating the riot as street theatre this April - it will be followed by a feast, the main course will of course be jacket potatoes. They are hoping this will become an annual event.

Macclesfield Ruby CLub are struggling this season, they are sixteenth and last 12 points away from safety with eleven games left. They have a game in hand after a frozen pitch at Hull Ionians - the replay of which could be critical. Their wins came against Fylde and Darlington, they also drew against Blaydon all of which earned try bonuses. The also scored five tries against Loughborough but shipped 11. They picked up losing bonuses in the first match against Esher, at Volac Park against us and in a low scoring match when they hosted Moseley in November. But since then they have failed to add to their tally.

Cambridge will be looking to get their fist win since before Christmas. They have come close in many of the games. Everyone is very aware that they need a victory. They have come close in many of the games but now need to close a game out. However, even though they are on a poor run, we cannot discount the Blues - they have the ability to score tries if we give them a chance. You can read their thoughts on us here Arrow

Friendly voices in the crowd do lift the squad, so if you can make the trip they will welcome your support.

Jan 17

Moseley Preview

This Saturday Cambridge host Birmingham Moseley for the first time in the leagues.

Major General Henry Havelock KCB was born in what is now Sunderland would have become a lawyer had he not been cut off by his father and requiring an income joined the Rifles. He gained fame in the First Afghan War and the Indian Mutiny. His statue stands in Trafalgar Square, even though Ken Livingstone suggested it be replaced by a more relevant figure. When a group of cricketers in Moseley formed a new cricket club, they named it in hounour of the recently deceased general.

A few years later some of the lads wanted to take up a winter sport and in 1873 Havelock Football club was founded. The cricketers not wanting their pristine turf to be disturbed by scrums made them find a new location. The initially played in neighbouring Balsall Heath but took the name Moseley FC and adopted red and black as the club colours. As for the Cricket Club - apart from a footnote in Moseley FC history, I can find no trace.

The fixture list of the time was ad hoc. In 1881 they traveled to Leicester for the first match of that town's new club. They had a fierce rivalry with Coventry, regular matches against Cardiff and Gloucester - but also played local sides such as Handsworth and Leamington Rovers. In the early days they had a number of different ground, settling in at the Reddings in 1883 - the first match was again against Leicester. The coming of the Midland Counties Challenge Cup brought competitive rugby, Moseley lifted that cup 9 times between 1881 and 1925. Moseley Wanderers represented Britain at the Paris Olympics.

The club remained one of the premier English clubs for over 100 years, they topped the Daily Mail and Sunday Telegraph Merit Tables in 1976. They reached the final of the RFU knock out cup three times - sharing the 1982 cup with Gloucester after a draw at Twickenham. They entered the leagues in Division one and stayed in the top flight until 1991. Professionalism was not kind to the club, they went into administration, were bought out by local supporters. They moved from the Reddings first to the University and then to Billesley Common. More financial problems saw them drop to level 3, only to bounce back in 2006. The club has put a lot of money into developing its new home, which has meant there has been less money for players - which led to struggles and last season they were relegated to National 1 for the second time.

Most seasons if the relegated Championship side could keep its side together it would expect immediate promotion - but this is not a normal season. With Hartpury rampant, Plymouth recovering from its administration and Ampthill and Blackheath maintaining their position. Moseley have realised that they will face a second season in National 1. This has led to them trimming their budget further- they have announced that Kevin Maggs will not have his contract renewed - though he remains as coach until the end of the season. Last season they decided to adopt the name Birmingham Moseley - to retain the heritage while letting everyone know where they came from. Apparently too many people though they were from Molesey in Surrey, the home of Esher rugby.

So what of Moseley - it is a suburb of Birmingham home to authors Jonathon Coe who used it as inspiration for scenes in The Rotters Club and J.R.R. Tolkien, who used Sarhole Mill as inspiration for the Shire - even though the mill was itself an early site for the Industrial Revolution being owned by Matthew Boulton, who install a James Watt steam engine to power metal working there, before moving to larger premises at the Soho Works. Moseley is also home to musicians Christine McVie, of Chickenshack and Fleetwood Mac; Roy Wood, the Move, ELO and Wizzard; much of UB40 and Ocean Colour Scene - hence their album Moseley Shoals.

But what of rugby, the Blood and Sand were in high spirits when they visited Billesley - as they had just beaten Loughborough in a tight finish. However, the Moseley pack delivered a stern lesson in the realities as the hosts ran in 11 tries to our two in a 72-14 drubbing. Birmingham Moseley were taught their own lesson by Hartpury and have lost to Ampthill, Plymouth and Coventry but won all their other matches so sit fifth - with a game against Blaydon in hand. Cambridge are expecting another tough match. They will need the help of the Cambridge roar to lift them. Do get down and support the lads.

Jan 17

Darlington Mowden Park Home Preview

This Saturday, the Blood and Sand welcome Darlington Mowden Park to Volac Park.

Darlington is of course the home of the railways. Not only the original Stockton and Darlington Line, but a home to railway works that produced some of the most famous steam locomotives, many designed by chief engineer Sir Nigel Gresley.

His designs included:

- the A1 Peppercorn - some may have seen the Typhoon which was recently built at Darlington to the original designs, though with modern safety features;

- the A3 - including the Flying Scot the first steam locomotive to be recorded at 100mph;

- and the streamlined A4 - of which the most famous is Mallard still the fastest steam locomotive, though that specific engine was built at Doncaster. The record run causes a bearing to overheat - so it was not ale to continue the service beyond Peterborough. 

Sir Nigel retired to St. Albans where he bred ducks. There is now a statue of Sir Nigel at King's Cross - though it is missing the duck that was in the maquette.

We travelled to Darlington in hope. We had just had a close encounter with Old Albanian losing narrowly by two points. We hoped the wide pitch at the Northern Echo Arena would let us run - but stubborn home defence kept us out and could not stop the hosts scoring. We did score two late tries but lost 37-12.

Since then Darlington have struggled. Though the winter break may have been good for them. Last week DMP have completed a double over Ampthill winning 14-12 at home. This puts them a point behind Cambridge in the table. However, like many National 1 sides, they do much better at home than on the road. Aside from their early win at Ampthill, their only other away win was at Blaydon.

Ricky Reeves said that when Cambridge are on the front foot with the Cambridge crowd cheering them on - it is the best feeling in the world. The weather forecast is for sunshine following an overnight frost - which should make for running rugby. So come down and give the boys the support they deserve.

You can read Darlington's view of the match here

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